The Gift of Time in Cebu
In this season marked by gift giving and receiving, I've been reflecting about a significant gift that I received earlier this year. In July, I travelled to the Philippines and had the opportunity to spend 6 days visiting CSC.
While I've had connections to CSC for almost 15 years, this was my first actual trip there – not for lack of desire to have made the trip earlier, but working within the realities of parenting and being an at-home mom with our 4 young kids. Being there was, of course, amazing, and a true gift. The life-giving ministry that takes place there came alive for me in a whole new way. I don't want to lose that deepened sense of connectedness that I brought back to Minnesota with me, and as part of that desire to hold onto connection I recently revisited some of the journaling that I'd done during my week at CSC. I'd like to share a few excerpts from my journal with you – in hopes that you also will feel a rekindled sense of connectedness to the truly life-altering work that takes place every day, hour by hour and minute by minute at CSC.
From our first day at the shelter – Wednesday, July 19th
It is emotional to be here with the kids! To see little babies who don't belong to anyone-yet here belong to everyone, sweet toddlers who remind me of Berit (our 2 year old daughter) who have already lost someone for a lifetime, preschoolers coming close or slipping in a hand to be held who don't know what it's like to be someone's child, busy elementary schoolers curiously and boldly saying hello – their life stories already so complicated, and tall, growing-up pre-teens who act like they are at camp, yet don't have family to return home to. I've gotten lots of tears welling up in my eyes – for the kids, when seeing Paul being tender and familiar with kids of all ages, and in thinking about life and all of its complexity. So thankful to be here, and so aware that life can be hard.
From Thursday, July 20th
I've seen lots of poverty today while driving, especially on the city tour with Marlys. It's so surreal to drive by it and then to be done with it, while it is remains someone's total life and story. I like to imagine that all of the kids I see who are way too close to the moving cars in the street have a parent close by, or that they are just going for a walk, but I know that isn't true. Especially aware today of CSC as a SHELTER.
From Tuesday, July 25th
CSC is impressive. The physical campus, the stories behind the campus coming to be, the contrast for the kids between what was and what is – as well as new potential for what might be, the many aunties and uncles, the holistic set up that addresses so many important parts of each child's experience, the team of leaders that is both forward thinking and evaluative... and of course the kids themselves. I'm struck today by the RESILIENCY of the kids. Each child here carries with them a heavy, heart-breaking story, but they keep going.
While on the airplane as I journeyed home, as part of my processing of the days at CSC, I made two lists in my journal. One of the lists was titled "Hard Things", and the other was titled "Joyful Things". I'll share a few of the items that were part of each list.
Hard Things – Hearing kids who had been matched for adoption talk about where they would be going when they joined their new families (Australia, Tennessee, Italy), knowing that other kids listening had no adoption plan. Seeing endearing, funny, smart and talented older kids who don't have much time left until their adoption window closes – knowing that their amazing personalities could never be captured on paper and that their age would likely be what would speak loudest to potential adoptive families. Wondering if the CSC kids were wondering if I was "sizing them up" and considering the possibility of adding them to our family, and even choosing what to say about themselves based on that. Thinking about how quickly childhood passes, and "biding time" while waiting for a family. Hearing babies cry and seeing toddlers sitting in highchairs... even when being carefully tended to by aunties, as Paul would say, "It's not the same as being in a family."
Joyful Things – Bright smiles and sparkling brown eyes. Hearing the house parents lead the kids in devotions before breakfast and after dinner. Listening to the kids sing songs of worship – the sound of their voices floating out from the homes and through the campus. Seeing the kids smartly dressed in their matching school uniforms and getting to walk with them up the hill to school. Visiting Jacob and Ginda's rooms, specially created for them, and seeing how CSC is absolutely committed to them as valued family members. Getting to pray a prayer of thanks and blessing with the overnight workers one night as they started their shift. Being surrounded by a group of 11, 12 and 13 year old girls who just wanted to hang out and talk. Genuinely feeling that there are capable, thoughtful leaders in place. Seeing the employees call out, hug and playfully tease the kids. Sensing real openness from the staff to work together for the children.
Those are some excerpts from my CSC experience. It was truly such a gift to be able to spend those 6 days in July immersed in the daily life of CSC. I'm grateful in a deeper, broader way for this ministry as I'm reminded of both hard and joyful parts of CSC. As a CSC board member, I am especially thankful for the community that supports CSC. To know that children's lives are being changed each day is truly amazing and inspiring, and I'm so thankful for all of you who make that possible!